“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was found guilty by a Cook County Circuit Court jury yesterday on five of six felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to Chicago police about an alleged hate crime he reported in January 2019.
The jury, which included six men and six women, deliberated for more than nine hours Wednesday and Thursday.
In January 2019, Smollett claimed he was assaulted by two men wearing ski masks who hurled punches and racist and homophobic slurs at him before placing a noose around his neck.
However, Smollett’s story quickly unraveled when it was revealed he knew the two brothers — Abimola and Olabinjo Osundairo, former extras on the set of “Empire” who roughed him up. Smollett allegedly paid one of them $3,500. Police say it was for the staged assault, while Smollett claimed it was payment for an exercise and nutrition program, as the two sometimes worked as personal trainers.
A month after the incident, Smollett was charged by a grand jury with a Class 4 felony for filing a false police report. On March 26, 2019, all charges against Smollett were dropped by prosecutor Kim Foxx. In return, Smollett agreed to perform 16 hours of community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond. But that would not prove to be the end of the matter.
On April 11, 2019, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court against Smollett seeking to recoup $130,105.15, the cost of the investigation. Smollett countersued, claiming he was the victim of “mass public ridicule and harm.” But even that would not be the end of the story.
Foxx, facing pressure from those who accused her of showing leniency to Smollett because he was famous, asked the state to conduct an independent inquiry by a special investigator. As a result, Smollett was indicted for a second time, this time on six counts of felony disorderly conduct related to the false police report.
On the stand during his trial, which began last month, Smollett was insistent that the attack was real. Ultimately, the jury did not believe him. Smollett was allowed to remain free until sentencing. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 27. He faces up to three years in prison. However, with no prior felony record Smollett is likely to receive a lenient sentence, possibly only probation.
“For him to fake a hate crime, fake it and then cause the Police Department to spend enormous efforts … I thought it was serious criminal misconduct that needed to be approached and have a public trial about it,” Special Prosecutor Dan Webb told reporters outside the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
Webb said Smollett “compounded his wrongdoing” by lying to jurors and vowed to bring that up at Smollett’s sentencing.
Smollett’s attorney, Nenye Uche, said after the verdict that his client maintained his innocence and planned to appeal.
“Of course, he’s disappointed,” Uche said. “But he believes 100 percent that we will win on appeal.”